Sidney's defense of poetry

Sidney has the distinctoion of being the first practical critic in English. It is he who pioneers to assess the existing literature and to find out the excellence of poetry by the comparative study of the different branches of knowledge. This poet-critic has to apply himself vigorously to save the prestige of the art he deals with because Poetry in his days has fallen from the highest estimation to be the “laughing stock of children” . As a lover of poetry what he may be called, he considers it to be his duty to vindicate the just and right position of poetry among the different branches of learning as well as knowledge.

As a critic should do , he argues in favour of poetry from two points- first its inception and secondly its utility. Poetry is the most Antique form of art and light giver to ignorance or the first nurse to take care of other forms of arts. Rightly he shows how poetry shelters other two important branches of learning- philosophy and history. In teaching morals to man, philosophy claims to be the uncontested but philosophy itself has to originate from Poetry. No other forms of art existed before poetry. History or historian could not come to public judgement without the passport of poetry. All other arts had to be written in Poetry as there was no other medium of expression. Sidney, therefore, calls very forms of art ungrateful if it  doesn’t recognize it’s debt to poetry.

In order to uphold the superiority of poetry over others arts like Philosophy and History, Sidney refers to the Greek and the Roman attitude to poetry. The Romans called the poet ‘vates’ which “Prophets” . The Greeks called them”poets” which is derived from “Poein” which means to create. Thus , the civilized nations of the Ancient time honoured poets as Prophes or creators. The poets are therefore connected with creation of a new world out of the existing world, Sidney rightly asserts the glory of the poets emanated from the supreme creator God. Besides, all the Religious books are a divine poetry which rules our life.

Sidney truly an nicely interprets the usefulness of poetry in teaching morals to mankind. Two challengers in this respect are Philosophy and History. Philosophy being full of definitions, divisions and theories can hardly teach man what is good what is bad. History, as it is bound to dry the dry facts , cannot teach man the moral lesson effectively. But it is poetry undoubtedly which is quite appropriate to teach correctly by presenting in imaginary tales. Only in Poetry good is rewarded and evil is punished. Besides, poetry , Sidney adds, has a moving power to draw the most careless man to it for learning. Therefore, to teach the virtuous action which is the ending end of all branches of knowledge, is the right property of poetry. Rhyme or verse if it is given to poetry, makes makes it more attractive to help memorization.

The arguments advanced by Sidney in favour of poetry are logical and powerful. But in some cases, he has overemphasized the utility of poetry. We can hardly agree with him when he says that Poetry aims at teaching morality through delight. But we are provided with delight first and through this delight we automatically learn what is moral and immortal. With this exception, we are fully convinced of his arguments in favour of poetry.

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